The best gift ideas for an 80-year-old man would honour or commemorate his life and his accomplishments in some way. Or you could help him get a taste of new technology without too much culture shock. After all, let's be honest--when you're 80, you hardly need a new tie or briefcase. Your working days are most likely behind you, and you want something you can truly enjoy. Think frills rather than utilitarian, and don't rule out simple companionship.
Honouring a Life
The sad part about eulogies is that they are read too late--you say nice things about a person after he's already gone. Why not take the spirit of the eulogy, honouring someone's life, and turn it into a memorable, one-of-a-kind birthday gift?
Round up photos of his life and create a special hardcover memory book, complete with a poignant introduction. Kodak Gallery has a selection of memory books that look as professional as coffee table books you'd buy in stores.
Gather up all the kids and grandkids and have a special portrait taken at a photo studio. Don't scrimp--get everyone in it if you can, with grandad in the centre, and then have it framed professionally with a brass plague that reads "three (or four) generations of" the family name.
Give a time capsule gift basket. Get whatever you can from his birth year--an old magazine, an old newspaper, a coin, a popular candy or treat that's survived the years pretty much intact (Necco wafers come to mind). Use eBay as a resource, and don't forget a trip to the local antique mall. You shouldn't have much trouble rounding up a dozen or so items.
High Tech Gadgets
While some older people adapt readily to new technology, many are afraid of computers, BlackBerrys and other high-tech gadgets. So make it simple and get the birthday boy into the electronic age with an easy-to-use gadget he'll enjoy, like a digital photo frame or key chain filled with favourite family photos, or even an iPod Shuffle that you've preloaded with the music of his day. The iTunes store has a wide selection, and if you can't find the right tune to download, there's always Amazon for a CD of classic Big Band, traditional or even Dixieland music.
Things Money Can't Buy
One of the best gifts for an 80-year-old man is simply spending some time with him, or enabling him to do something he used to love doing but no longer can on his own. Maybe he was a surfer in the late 1950s; take him down to the beach for a walk or drive, depending on his physical condition, followed by a visit to the local surf bar and then off to the DVD rental store to pick up a copy of Endless Summer that the two of you can watch at home together. If he enjoyed, or still enjoys, fishing, take him out on a deep-sea fishing cruise, or out on the lake on a boat. If he likes golf, invite two of his friends and join them in a foursome, all expenses paid. And if he's got grandkids, make sure they are included. Maybe the whole family can spend a day at the park, or the museum, or going on a picnic, or just visiting at home.